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Designing Your Reopening Infection Control Program

Hand holding a briefcase and a surgical mask
Hand holding a briefcase and a surgical mask
Om Malik

Om Malik

CEO, Environmental Consulting Occupational Health (ECOH)

Matt Johnson

Matt Johnson

President & CEO, Commercial Loss Experts, and Member of the Board of Directors, Disaster Recovery Information Exchange Toronto (DRIE)

Brought to you by Environmental Consulting Occupational Health (ECOH) and the Disaster Recovery Information Exchange Toronto (DRIE).

With some of the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions starting to be lifted, many workplaces are faced with difficult decisions about how to re-start operations without jeopardizing the health of their employees, clients, or customers. This requires some systematic thinking about how to institute a workplace infection control program.

It’s important to start by assessing the risks your operations pose to spreading infection. To conduct your risk assessment, think about all the processes in your workplace that could lead to infection through airborne droplets or aerosols (small particles) or contact with infected surfaces. 

Then, develop a program to prevent those risks. Om Malik, CEO of Environmental Consulting Occupational Health (ECOH), an Ontario environmental and health and safety consulting firm, uses the acronym DOT — Design, Oversight, Test — to describe what’s needed.

The Design process can involve re-arranging work to promote physical distancing and low-touch processes.  For example, continue remote work where possible to reduce the number of people in the workplace. This will make it easier to space workstations and people in such a way so as to maintain a two-metre physical distance. Marking two-metre distances and designating corridors and stairways as one-way will help. Avoid shared equipment as much as possible. Plexiglass barriers, face shields, and masks will also help prevent infection spread. You will need special protocols for lunchrooms, elevators, and washrooms. Plan for emergencies like someone getting sick while at work. Train your staff in all requirements.

You’ll need to screen visitors and staff and prevent entry to anyone who has COVID-19 symptoms or has travelled outside Canada in the last 14 days. If possible, inform visitors, customers, and clients about your procedures before they arrive to streamline entry. You may want to use a visitor management system with COVID-19 screening. 

Changes to ventilation systems and cleaning procedures may also be necessary. While infection control programs have typically been found in health care facilities, “With the onset of the novel coronavirus,  infection control programs will now be the new normal for all commercial building environments,” says Matt Johnson, President and CEO of Commercial Loss Experts  and Member of the Board of Directors of the Disaster Recovery Information Exchange Toronto (DRIE). “It’s important that you have a pre-established relationship with service providers that are equipped and skilled at decontamination and disinfection,” he adds.

Finally, don’t forget the Oversight and Test components of DOT. As Malik says, “You need to oversee your program to make sure it’s done right, and test to make sure you got it right.” 

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